'Holtz was masterful': Aaron Taylor recalls 1993 Game of the Century between Notre Dame and Florida State

Post-Tribune

Five words came to mind when Aaron Taylor thought back to Nov. 13, 1993.

“The Game of the Century,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Taylor was a senior All-America offensive lineman for Notre Dame in the epic home game against Florida State.

It was the top-ranked Seminoles versus the No. 2 Irish. Both teams were 9-0.

“It was future NFL defensive players of the year and Heisman Trophy winners,” said Taylor, who was one of the team captains. “It was Bobby Bowden and Lou Holtz. It was the speedy, athletic boys from Florida with this slow, plodding Midwest offense of Notre Dame. There were so many contrasting styles and the best of the best at the time.

“That game felt big from Sunday morning as we started prepping. It was huge.”

Notre Dame won the classic 31-24. Taylor said it’s hard to believe it has been almost 25 years since the game.

As the anniversary approaches, so does the latest chapter in the Notre Dame-Florida State series. The third-ranked Irish (9-0) play the Seminoles (4-5) on Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.

Taylor is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and was part of the broadcast team when Notre Dame defeated Navy on Oct. 27 in San Diego.

“The thing that stands out most about this 2018 team is its character,” Taylor said. “This is a team that has humility, a team that has talent, a team that has leadership and a team that has depth.

“The mark of this team is that it truly is a team. Its strength is its depth.”

Although this year’s Notre Dame-Florida State game won’t have nearly as much hype as the 1993 meeting, the national championship implications are just as big for the Irish.

“This appears to be a team that knows what’s at stake,” Taylor said. “It appears to be ready to tackle the challenge.”

The Irish were up to the major test the Seminoles represented in 1993.

“Holtz was masterful at building the games,” Taylor said. “On Sunday, we’re playing the Chicago Bears. We have no shot at the beginning of the week. By Friday night, Saturday morning, we are the Chicago Bears.

“We walked into that meeting and Holtz says: ‘Men, I’m not going to lie to you. That’s the fastest, most athletic team we’ve ever seen and played this season. This might be the best football team I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s going to take our best effort, and somehow, someway, if we can keep it close, we might have a shot to win. Let’s get to work.’”

Taylor said offensive line coach Joe Moore agreed with the assessment during a position meeting.

“‘The little guy in glasses is right for once,’” Taylor said with a laugh, recalling Moore’s words. “‘They are athletic, they are big and they are strong. They are the fastest defense we’ve seen all season long. But let’s see when we punch them in the (bleeping) mouth.’

“That set the tone that week for us.”

The win occurred on the eve of Taylor’s 21st birthday.

The shot at a championship ended the next week with a 41-39 loss to Boston College, and Florida State wound up winning its first national title after beating Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Taylor believes this year’s Irish will have to win out to make it into the College Football Playoff. He said the Nov. 17 Syracuse game at Yankee Stadium, in particular, features matchup challenges.

Taylor said he has been impressed with the decision-making, execution and growth of the 2018 Irish.

“As an alum, I’m happy,” Taylor said, “I’m proud, and more than anything, I’m excited that these young men have the opportunity to give themselves a memory of a lifetime.”

lpope@post-trib.com

Twitter @lamondpope

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